Talking to a Teacher About Problem Concerns

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What do you do when your child comes home terribly upset from school?  Let's say you talk to your child, and find that your child is having a serious problem.  It could be anything from being totally lost in a school subject, being bullied by a classmate, or perhaps the teacher said or did something that upset your child.  

No one can learn effectively when they are upset and stressed out.  It is important to take steps to solve the problem so your child will feel comfortable and get back to learning.

 Try to stay calm when you are talking with your child about their frustrations - remember that your atittude will influence your child's. Once you know your child is having a problem, you next step is to talk with the teacher

Make Sure You Are Calm

Be sure to be in a calm state yourself when you call or email your child's teacher.  It is terribly upsetting for any parent to see their child in distress.  If you contact the teacher while you are upset, you will probably get across how you feel without really describing the problem.  If you are concerned about the teacher's actions in particular, try to remember that teachers have stressful, fast paced jobs working with several students.  Also try to keep in mind that so far you only have one side of the story - your child's side.  There may be more going on than what your child is aware of.  

Plan What You Want To Say  

Negotiators, advocates, lawyers, and even teachers use this strategy all the time.

  Plan your message to have three parts. First, get the problem summed up in one sentence.  Next add facts or details as needed.  End with a question or suggestion on what you want.  For example:  First sentence "Tommy told me he is being bullied by his deskmate.  Next part: Tommy comes home and cries at night.

  He told me he hates school and never wants to come to school  again.  End: Do you know about this bullying problem, how do you handle bullying in your classroom?"

Don't Make It Personal 

Stick to the facts that you know, and don't make any personal attacks, or judgments on anyone.  If you are critical of the teacher, you risk putting the teacher on the defensive.  Instead of saying "I think this homework policy of yours is ridiculous, my daughter spends three hours every night crying because of you" Say "Haylie spends hours in frustration every night, often in tears, saying she can't do her homework."  By sticking to the issue or problem, you give the teacher the chance to look at the problem instead of whether or not the teacher is justified in their actions.

Ask What Can Be Done

Find out if there is something you can do, or what reasonable changes can be made to change the situation.  Your child may need reduced homework assignments, or extra tutoring.  If your child is being bullied, ask what the school bullying policy is and how it will keep your child safe.

Be Prepared to Hear More Information 

Your child's teacher may know something your child isn't telling you.  Perhaps your child originally threatened the other student, and you will need to talk to your child about their role in the incident.  Or perhaps your teacher may be observing your child struggle with material at school, and isn't surprised about a homework issue you are raising, and would like to explore checking for learning disabilities. 

Avoid Going To The Top Right Away 

If you are upset about what is happening in your child's classroom, it may be tempting to bypass the teacher altogether and instead contact the principal or school district administration.  If it is the classroom where the issue is taking place, then the problem needs to be handled at that level. People who are higher up are not the ones who would be making the change.  Most likely, they will ask if you have discussed this with your child's teacher and what the outcome was.  It is usually faster and easier to bring the issue to the teacher.  Only consider going above the teacher if you feel that your meeting with the teacher did not address your concerns at all.

Keep the Relationship In Mind 

Your child will continue to be in this person's class for the rest of the semester or school year.  Developing and maintaining a good working relationship with your child's teacher lets the teacher know that you are supportive of their child's education, and that the teacher can talk with you.  If you haven't already established a good relationship with your child's teacher arises, let the teacher know that you care about your child's education, and support their school work. 

Be Sure To Follow Through 

If you say you will do something to help solve the problem, make sure you follow through and make every effort to do so.  If you and the teacher decide that you will look into getting your child tested for disabilities, then make the phone calls to get the testing done and let the teacher know the outcome.  If you must talk to your child about the role in a bullying incident, make sure you do so.  If you take these measures, and the problem continues, go back and speak with the teacher again and let them know what is and isn't working.  This is part of why developing a good working relationship is important.

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